I've been eager to take this one on since it's announcement, and now that Im currently playing Darksiders on the PS3, it was indeed time for a PC demo to try to wow me. Being a major fan of Mass Effect 1 and 2, I figured it had a good chance... I was at least half right.
The ME3 demo is divided into two parts: Single Player and Multiplayer. And while they share the same basic combat mechanics, both show of some very distinct features to their game-mode. First and foremost, do not expect this demo to let you import your ME2 game. If that is not in the final game, I think there will be riots, but for the purpose of this demo, they decided not to let you actively import anything.
That said, the customization system to build your own Shepard is very in-depth, right down to facial structure, origin, and even a little bit of psychosis starting to settle in based on who lived and who died in ME1. How this will effect the main game, I do not know, but seeing you get to choose if you are building your character for the first time shows promise that they are taking their much-touted feature of one game effecting the next a bit more seriously this time.
And customization is definitely the name of the game... maybe a little too much. Before I got to play, I had to make a choice of how to play... not easy, medium, or hard, but just what was I interested in. I could choose to make the game focus on story, role playing, or combat. According to the description, story mode basically removes combat or makes it stupid easy so you can focus exclusively on the choices you make in the game and the plot that comes of it. To me, this sounds like they are trying to remove half the game, and while I understand making a AAA title accessible to as many as possible, this somehow strikes me as a little much. Action isn't much better, as it basically turns all the non-combat parts of the games into cutscenes. This removes the actual choice parts of the game entirely, and again, removes half of what makes this game. For once, I'm just hoping this is for the demo alone, since it would be a shame if people were actively told they could remove what makes this series so noted.
The game itself starts with Shepard getting called back into duty as the Reapers reach Earth. You got that right, the game starts with them attacking the human home-world. And within moments, you are making your way through a ruined city fighting against the things the Reapers brought with them to be picked up by the Normandy. Immediately, the scope of what the game shows you is amazing, as you climb in and out of a ruined tower all with an absolutely stunning look. There are few choices to make in this part at all, but what is there is to attempt to make you sympathize with the plight of Earth before leaving it to find help from the other species of the galaxy and line up the final goal of the game: gather everyone together to stand and fight against the things that are finally moving to wipe out all life in the galaxy.
The second mission they give you in the game happens later on, and is an attempt to save a fertile female Krogan... from how Wrex (yeah, Wrex is back IF he survived for you in the previous games... if this demo is to be believed) talks about her, she might not have the virus that is crippling their numbers. The problem, Cerebus, the pro-human organization who once regenerated Shepard for the events in Mass Effect 2, also knows about her and has deemed her a potential threat to mankind. They are moving in for the kill, and you go into heavy combat/defense mission to protect and extract her.
In both examples, the combat is very action orientated. Your mouse buttons shoot/focus (or look out from cover and focus) while the mouse wheel allows you to change weapons quickly. R is your reload while Space is your run/get in cover/jump over cover/roll button. In addition the number keys are hotkeys for your powers, including throwing grenades. This proves a little bit awkward to anyone who is used to FPS gaming on a keyboard since many games use Q or E or even F or G to give the hand moving the player around quicker access to their grenades. In addition using the space for everything like this game (and many others that use a cover system) does gives some potential for confusion if you don't gauge your distance just right when working with cover. Outside of these two very specific issues, though, the game feels very smooth.
Taking the combat game further is the multiplayer mode, where 4 players will work together to complete specific objectives against waves of enemies. In this demo, the enemy is locked as Cerebus, but your location will change what goals you are facing. Combat remains the same except for communication and death. In the single player game, as expected, when you die, you die. In multiplayer, you can be picked up so long as your "dying" meter doesnt run out or you are not executed by an enemy. You can delay the meter running out by spamming the space key, and even if you die, so long as your team wins against the wave, you will return.
Along with that, is, of course communication. Text is allowed, but kinda backwards in today's day and age of action games. I would not expect to see anyone use it. Voice is used by holding down the Tab key, which proves comfortably reachable while playing the game. And right now, Im hoping that either everyone is done and waiting for the full game, or as the one team I was able to actively play with suggested, people were just having trouble connecting to the game that day, because almost every game I tried to play wound up with everyone bailing before the game began and no one using mics at all. Im pretty sure my hopes are going to be well met due to how big this game is going to be, but it felt like I was trying to either play with a dead community or a community of asses.
That said, the actual multiplayer experience was a surprise joy to play! When the team is getting together and people are working together, it was an amazing experience, and honestly, I find myself seriously looking forward to this part just as much as the single player section.
So where does this leave us? Im going to be getting this game when it comes out. I can not be sure I will be there day one since I may still be playing Darksiders at the time, but it will be my next game, and I have to admit, it is tempting to pick it up and dive in day 1 for the multiplayer at night, taking up the single player when I get through my current title. You see, I was entertained, but not exactly wowed by the single player, but playing online caught me by surprise how fun it was. Either way, it wont be long after the game comes out at the very least that you guys will see me out there.